Resident takes extreme measures to save homes - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Resident takes extreme measures to save homes

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  • SAN DIEGO FIRE COVERAGE

    SAN DIEGO FIRE COVERAGE

    Tuesday, May 20 2014 7:19 PM EDT2014-05-20 23:19:45 GMT
    Investigations were under way Tuesday into a rash of major fires that destroyed dozens of homes and businesses last week as they raged over tens of thousands of acres throughout the San Diego area. 
    Investigations were under way Tuesday into a rash of major fires that destroyed dozens of homes and businesses last week as they raged over tens of thousands of acres throughout the San Diego area. 
SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Thousands of people were evacuated during this week's fire storm but many others did not. 

Cell phone video shows the wall of fire Charlie Duvel saw coming toward his home in Coronado Hills Wednesday afternoon.

Charlie was prepared for the worst.

"We've been watching it and watching the smoke and saying here it comes, here it comes," he said. 

He had saved his home on Attebury Drive from a wildfire before.

"I have a very defensible piece of property," Duvel said. 

He had 200 feet of fire hose hooked up to a water main. He also had the help of his neighbor and a few friends who were prepared to jump in the backyard swimming pool if the fire came too close.

"We had trash cans lined up... bath towels... if all else failed we were gonna jump into the pool," he said. 

Charlie took photos of the flames approaching. The team of men used chainsaws to cut down trees.

One photo shows flames racing toward a vacant house next door and the back deck on fire.

The house was saved when the former owner of the home showed up and turned on a sprinkler system installed on the roof.

Then suddenly - a wall of fire came racing toward Charlie's home. 

"Dave my neighbor was cutting the trees down, I said, 'Dave get out of there,'" he said. 

He says he was forced to take extreme measures.

He set his own backfire.

"So I ran into the garage and grabbed a can of gas, stuck a paper towel, lit it and tossed it over my fence and it started a fire here," he said. 

Charlie had no training in firefighting or setting backfires but he says he had no choice, and the backfire may have saved his home.

"I was telling the fire Marshall what I did, I didn't want to admit to it, he said it was smart, most people won't do that," he said. 

In the end, Charlie's home was saved, along with his neighbor's homes on either side.

A Cal Fire photographer actually took photos of Charlie setting the backfire that saved his home so fire investigators are aware of the extreme measures he took.

CBS News 8 spoke with Captain Mike Molher from Cal Fire, who says if you set an uncontrolled fire while trying to save your home and it shows that that fire increased the size of the existing fire and caused injury or damage to structures, you will be held liable.

Authorities say it's crucial to heed the evacuation warnings and not ignore them.

We want to be clear we are not encouraging anyone to ignore evacuation orders or take extreme measures, such as setting your own backfire to try to save your home. Firefighters say leave that for the experts.
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